The Yankees are not what they used to be. Sure they are certain to be a huge draw when they visit Houston, but this is not the same team of years past. This is especially true when you look at the Yankees projected lineup.
Derek Jeter appeared to be healthy again after breaking his ankle in last year’s playoffs, but still he is one year older and is a player on the decline. But that does not mean he should be counted out, and at this point Jeter is one of the surest things the Yankees have heading into the season. However, perhaps he did try to come back too soon. Despite a follow up MRI coming back as negative, Jeter has been held out of the last two games with what seems like a general soreness or stiffness. The cause of this, is likely that he tried to come back too soon. This is something the Yankees are going to have to monitor all season and he might actually start the season on the disabled list.
More than just his performance on the field, Jeter is truly the last link between the Yankees dynasty and their current team. Yes Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are still around, but they are not on the field everyday nor are they as outspoken and in the public eye as the Captain is.
Jeter’s double play partner, Robinson Cano, is not only the best player on the Yankees entering the 2013 season, but the player with the fewest questions attached to him. Of course the fact that he is the best player on the Yankees and a free agent at the end of the season will generate lots of rumors and speculation, but he can be counted on for 30 HR and 100 RBI and more importantly to provide a constant in the middle of the lineup.
Curtis Granderson is also an impending free agent, but his season will get off to a delayed start thanks to a broken left forearm suffered in spring training when he was hit by a pitch. Due to the type of the injury, it was a clean break, this should not be expected to slow the outfielder down this season. Once Granderson returns, there should be no ill effects from the injury. Since it is an upper body injury, Granderson will be able to maintain his conditioning to make the comeback a little easier, but he will need some time to regain his timing. And based on the options the Yankees have to replace him in the outfield, Brennan Boesch is the leading contender, they need him back soon.
Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner will round out the outfield for the Yankees, and while they do not offer much power, the speed and the defense is there. However, this is not a team that people expect to see fielded in the Bronx. Other outfield candidates include Melky Mesa and Juan Rivera. However, thanks to the wrist injury to Mark Teixeira, it seems likely that Rivera will be seeing the bulk of the time at first base. Teixeira has been on the decline the last few seasons, but they Yankees need him this season. And right now it does not look like they will have their controversial third baseman.
Thanks to his hip surgery Alex Rodriquez is going to be out least for the first half of the season. But based on his health condition and the drama that swirls around him, it would not surprise me if we did not see Rodriquez in pinstripes at all this season. Honestly though who would have thought the Yankees would be starting the season with Rivera and Kevin Youkilis as their corner infielders and Travis Hafner as the DH. If they are getting the Hafner of five years ago, then they might be in decent shape, but a comeback from Youkilis is also needed to say the least.
The pitching staff is the strength of the team this season. CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera both look like they have returned from their injuries with their health intact. Sabathia is poised to be the dominating ace he is at the top of the rotation and he has a solid veteran base of Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte behind him. Young starters Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will do a good job holding up the back end of the rotation.
Rivera’s swan song this season essentially makes this the last year that the Yankees will be playing eight inning games. David Robertson is back in a set up role and Joba Chamberlain will still be a factor.
This is no longer a baseball team that can just step out on the field and win ballgames. Especially at the start of the season, despite their payroll, a lot of star power will be lacking. They can honestly finish anywhere between first and fifth in the division and will not go down easy.